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Would-Be Commanders-in-Chief and the Death of Benazir Bhutto

December 28th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

prez-candidates.gif

The death of Benazir Bhutto is assuredly going to matter
in the US presidential primaries that begin in Iowa next week. Exactly how much and to whom is as yet unclear. The majority of Americans know little of the nuances of Pakistani politics. And, for the most part, whatever knowledge voters gain in the coming days will be dependent on the information and spin they are fed by TVs nattering nabobs.

Last night, when talking about the meaning of Bhutto’s death, Wolf Blitzer in conversation with Dan Rather put forth a decidedly non-nuanced message that can best be summed up as follows: Terror central!!! Islamic extremism!!! Danger, danger, danger!!!

Of course, how events in Pakistan affect the US Prez race is, in the main, dependent on the candidates themselves, all of whom—Dem and Repub—have had something to say about the assassination and what it portends:

Not surprisingly, several in the Republican field—most particularly Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani— have used Benazir’s death as an opportunity to talk tough, and to tell us how afraid we ought to be and therefore how much we need one of them to protect us.

Of the Republican front runners, Romney was the least credible
and the most annoying with his babbling about “”global, violent radical jihadism.”


“The world is very much at risk
by virtue of these radical, violent extremists and we must come together, in great haste and great earnestness, to help overcome the threat of the spread of radical, violent jihad.”

Then later, when Anderson Cooper asked Romney about what his course of action would be if he were POTUS, he appeared embarrassingly out of his depth as he recited the obvious, like how he’d try to get Musharraf on the phone right away. (Really? Ya think?)

(NOTE TO REPUB FRIENDS
: Please give this pre-programmed Ken doll the boot as soon as is humanly possible.)

McCain was also hawkish in his warning that the “forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism.” But he sounded a zillion times less whacked than Romney, and measurably more informed than Giuliani.

For Rudy’s part, early in the day he presented himself as the town sheriff with his pronouncements about how, “…her murderers must be brought to justice…” Later, when he talked to CNN, he talked of the things that “we” need to do to bring the country back to order and to catch the killers, seemingly forgetting that Pakistan isn’t an American protectorate.

The recently surging Huckabee sounded better equipped to be the national pastor than the Commander-in-Chief when he called for prayers (Fine.) then revealed that he didn’t know that Pakistan was no longer under emergency rule. (Not so fine.)

Fred Thompson just sounded moronic: “It’s a fight against western civilization,” he growled to reporters in Des Moines.

OF ALL THE REPUBLICANS, McCain-
–whether one agrees with his saber-rattling POV or not—seemed far and away the best informed and the clearest-of-head.

***************************************************************************

On the Dem side, Bill Richardson called on George Bush to force Musharraf to step down—an insane course of action that no one with any sense, even those of us who loathe the general and wanted him to step down two months ago, would even dream of suggesting right now—particularly not in advance of the Pakistani elections, which will surely be postponed.

It was not surprising that Hillary grabbed her own opportunity with the news, emphasizing her past personal meetings as first lady with Benazir, the message being, “I alone of those running have had the kind of foreign policy experience at a level found only at the top rung of the international relations ladder.”

When he first spoke about the assassination, Obama did not have his finest moment, but sounded rather tepid and distracted. Later, he sounded better then, through spokesman David Axelrod, he picked a fight with Clinton.

Joe Biden, who all along has predicted that Pakistan
is teetering on a knife’s edge, sounded sober-minded, informed and made the day’s best point:

“This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders -– I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.

(Biden’s words were later underscored when CNN revealed that it was in possession of a secret email from Bhutto dated two month’s ago saying that, if something happened to her, fault should be placed at the feet of Musharraf who had denied her the security she begged for and needed.)

In his press statement, Edwards, like Obama, sounded nondescript. But he got more forceful as the day wore on and told crowds at one rally that he’d gotten Musharraf on the phone soon after the assassination, a nice coup that definitely upped his LQ—leadership quotient.

OF ALL THE DEMOCRATS, the most points go to Edwards and Biden…..with begrudging human interest points going to Clinton for her women-at-the-top-meet-and-talk meme.

Now it remains to be seen how all this will play out in Iowa….and in Pakistan.

Posted in International politics, Pakistan, Presidential race | 26 Comments »

26 Responses

  1. Why Bother to Comment VI Says:

    OK, I’ll risk a comment: You’re right about Richardson sounding like a dolt, and Biden the most informed — as he often is on foreign affairs, incl. the Middle East. He’d make a good Secretary of State. For either party, since none of the Republicans sound too smart, either. Not sure though that Musharif didn’t provide enough security — there just may not have been enough security to prevent this, especially when she insisted on sticking half her body out of the SUV. (She had a bulletproof vest, so her neck and head were vulnerable and the target.) In the US and West there would have been more security distance between the Pres and crowds probably — but even here, campaigning, they’re out amongst the people, as was her choice to be.

    Not sure that the elections will be postponed, though, since Sharif’s party is the most visible successor to Musharraf’s opposition, and pundits are saying the longer elections are postponed, the more steam the opposition can gain — so he and the Bush admin. want elections to proceed as planned.

    Surely the violence and rioting indicates a lot of the people are blaming Musharraf for inadequate security, but then Pakistan and India are prone to this random violence.

    However, if you look at the Pakistani blogs and papers, many educated people sound like her niece did in this blog earlier: blaming the US for stirring up the tribal extremists and activating them within Pakistan, because Musharraf is the puppet of Bush in “the American war” of Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, they hold the US responsible for training Al Qaeda as the mujahadeen who fought Russia: and they’re saying that the ten billion we’ve paid Pakistan to take on this fight isn’t nearly enough: if we’ve spent hundreds of billions and lost 2,500 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, how can they manage on a “mere” $10 billion?
    And they add: If the US had stayed in Afghanistan after training the mujahadeen/ Taliban/ precursers of Al Qaeda to kick out Russia and rebuild the country (as we’re trying to do now) this wouldn’t have happened. Now, trying to make up for it by invading and rebuilding a second time doesn’t cut it — in the meantime the militants have become too powerful and international. (And the whole thing is tangled up with Palestine and the Middle East.) We’re also blamed for supporting BB’s return to Pakistan in the first place, and urging her to work out a compromise w/ Musharraf — trying to create “democracy” this way was “overplaying our hand.”

    I don’t see a lot of positive ideas coming out of Pakistan either, though, except that we should give them hundreds of billions more to fight the militants their own way, and bow out. (Not likely.)

    Except this good idea: Pakistan needs to license the Imams who have mosques and madrasas on every other block, and are responsible for “educating” some 80% of the poor, children and adults alike, in radical and distorted jihadist Islam. Some say (wisely) that if there were requirements for formal and extensive theological education (as we do for priests and mainstream church Protestant pastors), they wouldn’t be rousing the masses to blind anger and hatred. This also means educating more of the people via universal public education, and offering basic social services to the poor that they get from the madrasas. Some will go to school there just to get a free lunch.

    These same people are engaged in mindless rioting and looting — I pray for peace, but this rioting is almost begging for a return to marshall law (which Bush doesn’t want him to do).

  2. Why Bother to Comment VI Says:

    OK, I’ll risk a comment: You’re right about Richardson sounding like a dolt, and Biden the most informed — as he often is on foreign affairs, incl. the Middle East. He’d make a good Secretary of State. For either party, since none of the Republicans sound too smart, either. Not sure though that Musharif didn’t provide enough security — there just may not have been enough security to prevent this, especially when she insisted on sticking half her body out of the SUV. (She had a bulletproof vest, so her neck and head were vulnerable and the target.) In the US and West there would have been more security distance between the Pres and crowds probably — but even here, campaigning, they’re out amongst the people, as was her choice to be.

    Not sure that the elections will be postponed, though, since Sharif’s party is the most visible successor to Musharraf’s opposition, and pundits are saying the longer elections are postponed, the more steam the opposition can gain — so he and the Bush admin. want elections to proceed as planned.

    Surely the violence and rioting indicates a lot of the people are blaming Musharraf for inadequate security, but then Pakistan and India are prone to this random violence.

    However, if you look at the Pakistani blogs and papers, many educated people sound like her niece did in this blog earlier: blaming the US for stirring up the tribal extremists and activating them within Pakistan, because Musharraf is the puppet of Bush in “the American war” of Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, they hold the US responsible for training Al Qaeda as the mujahadeen who fought Russia: and they’re saying that the ten billion we’ve paid Pakistan to take on this fight isn’t nearly enough: if we’ve spent hundreds of billions and lost 2,500 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, how can they manage on a “mere” $10 billion?
    And they add: If the US had stayed in Afghanistan after training the mujahadeen/ Taliban/ precursers of Al Qaeda to kick out Russia and rebuild the country (as we’re trying to do now) this wouldn’t have happened. Now, trying to make up for it by invading and rebuilding a second time doesn’t cut it — in the meantime the militants have become too powerful and international. (And the whole thing is tangled up with Palestine and the Middle East.)

    I don’t see a lot of positive ideas coming out of Pakistan either, though, except that we should give them hundreds of billions more to fight the militants their own way, and bow out. (Not likely.)

    Except this good idea: Pakistan needs to license the Imams who have mosques and madrasas on every other block, and are responsible for “educating” some 80% of the poor, children and adults alike, in radical and distorted jihadist Islam. Some say (wisely) that if there were requirements for formal and extensive theological education (as we do for priests and mainstream church Protestant pastors), they wouldn’t be rousing the masses to blind anger and hatred. This also means educating more of the people via universal public education, and offering basic social services to the poor that they get from the madrasas. Some will go to school there just to get a free lunch.

    These same people are engaged in mindless rioting and looting — I pray for peace, but they’re almost b

  3. Why Bother to Comment VI Says:

    Pls. delete #2 — it actually precedes #1 (got cut off). Odd.

  4. "reg" Says:

    “Obama did not have his finest moment, but sounded rather tepid and distracted. Later, he sounded better then, through spokesman David Axelrod, he picked a fight with Clinton.”

    A couple of things on Obama’s “minimalist” comments and a few semi-random general thoughts on the situation.

    I think Obama’s first statement was totally appropirate. All of the hot air expended on this by guys like Biden, who has a plan for everything and anything, is meaningless. Totally and utterly meaningless. If Biden was as smart as he would like us to think, he wouldn’t have voted for Bush’s war – the worst foriegn policy decision in recent memory.

    And the truth is that the most important lesson that can be drawn from this tragedy – for us – is precisely what David Axelrod (speaking in response to a reporter’s question – not “picking a fight”) and later Obama himself point to. We took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, which was a difficult enough task in itself with no guarantees of success in actually pacifying the country and its borders. And people like Hillary, Biden and Edwards went along with the program – in some cases fairly eagerly. This is the single most salient point one can draw from the voices of “experience.” They didn’t know what the hell they were doing – or chose to do the wrong thing for political reasons – when the chips were down. Not only was a Pandora’s Box opened in Iraq, but an opportunity to focus on a job that might possibly have had a chance of success was lost. Let’s never forget the failure at Tora Bora to actually snatch bin Laden.

    Is this all rear-view mirror stuff and “carping” ? Only if you think that you can move forward and change course while ignoring crucial history and the foundations of past mistakes. Hillary Clinton and the rest want to run on their experience. Fine. Their “experience” is part of the problem. Reality check – we don’t know where this thing is going in the wake of Bhutto’s assasination. We can’t. Unfortunately, it’s that simple.

    The biggest problem we currently face in that region is that there are too many balls in the air, our often contradictory policies have already generated too much blowback , we’re trying to control uncontrollable situations in too many countries, we need too many things all to turn out “right” just in order to avert mulitple catastrophes in situations that we’ve actively inserted ourselves into. There’s not that much luck in the world.

    What do we do ? Limit our objectives in each of these situations to long-term rational self-interest and clear national security goals, not crackpot notions that we can significantly control events or be kingmakers in places like Pakistan or, god forbid, Iraq. The deeper we get into attempting to manipulate their politics and bribe their politicians – which is what most of our Pakistan “aid” amounts as has recently been disclosed – the more we are trading in illusions and ultimately damaging our own interests. I’m not proposing isolationism, but a much larger dose of realism, more strategic clarity, and some measure of fatalism as we limit our focus and our goals. Putting the best spin possible on the “internationalism” of folks like Biden or Richardson (who seems to have lost his mind on this one), idealism allowed to run rampant is barely distinguishable from old-fashioned imperialism and perhaps more dangerous because its so damned delusional.

  5. "reg" Says:

    Note: Nothing in that comment should be interpreted as an attack on the previous commenter, so perhaps we can chill with the unhinged ad hominem.

  6. "reg" Says:

    I’ll add that I’m not exempting Obama or his foriegn policy team from the “idealism” critique – and I understand the need for some lofty rhetoric. Just noting that his FP folks aren’t directly linked to what ranges from acquiesence to cheerleading for disastrous over-reach on the part of the US under patently false pretenses.

  7. Woody Says:

    I worry when someone feels as if he has to come out with some action plan before he has all the facts–something we call “knee jerk.” Maybe someone like McCain has enough background to be able to do that, but not many others do. In those cases, vague answers work temporarily.

    McCain is on the right track. Islamic terrorism gets worse if not opposed, we have a problem if terrorists control nuclear weapons, and we do need to help brave people fighting for freedom. Of course, terrorist attacks help the Republicans, as Hillary Clinton remarked a few months ago. Even she admist that she and Democrats are weak on national defense.

    Huckabee blew it when he “apologized” to Pakisatan for the assassination in his initial response. Screw him.

    Fred Thompson was absolutely correct that this was an attack on Western Civilzation–even more than attacks on Western Civ by California colleges.

    Hillary could get “on the phone” like she did for the “terrorist crisis” at one of her campaign offices, for which she received accolades from the media as being “regal” and “presidential” for accomplishing nothing but pretending to do something. Of course, as president, she would need to check the polls and focus groups before taking any substantive action–unless immediately necessary to divert attention from a scandal. (See Clinton-Lewinsky/Cruise Missile Attack)

  8. Why Bother to Comment VI Says:

    What’s curious to me is that as the finger-pointing proceeds apace, there are more Pakistanis who are actually (gasp!) starting to believe that the perpetrators are those who are making claims for this murder: Al-Qaeda. E.g. ADN Kronos, a well-respected news source otherwise, has been regarded with skepticism in pointing fingers at Al-Qaeda. Bloggers/ writers are daring to say that just continuing to point fingers at ISI (Musharraf’s party) and focusing on internal strife and conspiracy theories is missing the point, that the nation needs to unite against terrorists.

    This sounds so much like what U.S. and European leaders are saying, it’s been highly suspect, and made anyone who said it sound like a duped reactionary. After all, it’s been a perfectly respectable conspiracy theory that the US itself contrived 9/11 as an excuse to invade Afghanistan/ Iraq.

    Some are even saying that it was a mistake to secede from India in 48, at least the way it happened: Hinduism and all non-Muslim religions were demonized, a legacy that has continued with intermittent tragic results. If Pakistan had been as concerned with terrorists in 97 as with testing its nukes and getting into a contest of wills with India, they’d have gone a long way towards controlling them.

    All of this is coming from largely next-gen types, who describe leaving their start-up offices or worrying about missing college exams as they wind through streets burning with tires and controlled by mobs wielding sticks and steel tubes. So in a way, this is the shocking wake-up call that is forcing educated Pakistanis to look at their own responsibilities seriously, not just point the finger at the US for everything past and present.

    BUT I worry that while Pakistan may be coming closer to US/ Western views on containing Al-Qaeda, American leaders will continue to view this simplistically, rather than as the evolution in thought that it is. Such simplistic opinions and “solutions” turn off the world, as we did after 9/11.

    Reg, #5 duly noted. If the Pakistanis can do it…

  9. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Good comments, WBTC.

    Yes, the one possible positive legacy to be taken from Benazir’s murder is a wake-up call among the Pakistani populace to the dangers of right-wing religious extremism. Yet that doesn’t necessarily exempt involvement of some element within the ISI or someone ISI trained, in that, historically, the ISI is Taliban-friendly. (For years, they also covertly supported the Kashmiri Mujahideen.)

    In any case, somebody was a very good shot.

    BTW, the ISI is Inter-Services Intelligence, the intelligence arm nominally controlled by the military. It is not Musharraf’s political party.

    For whatever its worth, my bet is that there won’t be elections on time, for a variety of reasons. But the truth is, no one knows yet as the situation is too fluid.

  10. Why Bother to Comment VI Says:

    Yes, agree. But keep in mind we/ the world also supported the Kashmiri Mujahadeen, legacy of the Afghan-Russian wars. (After all, Kashmir is one of those impenetrable mtn. areas where these fighters and tribes live), and knowing just when they morphed into the “evil” Taliban/ Al-Qaeda was even harder to pinpoint for the Pakistanis. In late 89-90, after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the already trained mujahadeen turned their fight against India, and many Pakistanis had never been satisfied w/ the partition of Kashmir in the first place any more than were the Indians, so transferring their support to the “freedom fighters” seemed only natural. Now, they were fighting a “Pakistani battle.” When I was there at that time, it was considered a moral obligation by the general populace of Kashmir to join them and try to regain “occupied Kashmir.” Only in the last five years, after the overtures of a more moderate Indian P M (I think Singh, would have to confirm), have India and Pakistan begun to normalize some relations and border crossings — and to look at the “freedom fighters” in a different way. (So many killed on both sides since 90, and no territorial progress on either side. Meanwhile, they have also realized a mutual possible adversary in China, the third major power on Kashmir’s borders.)

    Yes, thanx re: ISI correction. It seems to have connotations like the KGB/ old CIA, a murky org capable of anything.

  11. richard locicero Says:

    After watching the news the last few days I’ve come to the conclusion that Bill Richardson is right. Even Biden admits that ours is a Mushariff policy not a Pakistani policy. Several experts on the region, interviewed on
    “The NewsHour” agreed that Pervaz can’t solve this. But I doubt if he will go and doubt if Bush and Condi – the most inept foreign policy duo in generations – will try to ease him out.

    Sorry Reg but bromides from Barack just underline hius not ready for prime time campaign. On this Richardson and Biden – and Dodd – are light years aheaed. Course it won’t matter as the tanking economy will soon swallow everything.

    Case in point: Lundberg is predictinfg $4.00 gas by next spring. That pretty much kills the GOP. And John
    McCain will find that Iraq and
    Afghanistan jump up and bit him in the ass.

  12. "reg" Says:

    Biden’s been in “prime time” for years blathering on endlessly. He thought the Iraq war resolution was worth voting for and came up with a plan for the US to partition Iraq. Whether or not that’s happened de facto doesn’t make it any less crazy as “official” US policy.

    Richardson’s suggestion that the US should, in effect, support regime change in Pakistan is crazy.

    These guys are blowhards who need to recognize that we can’t control the politics of Pakistan…or Iraq for that matter, even with tens of thousands of troops there.

    I don’t know that Obama has the answers, but I know who doesn’t.

  13. "reg" Says:

    Exactly who comes in when Mushareff gets “eased out” ? Do you know ? Does anybody?

    I hate to say this, but the smartest foreign policy suggestion in decades came from George Bush in 2004. “Humility.” Ironic as hell, but I’m sick as hell of liberal “internationalists” and right-wing imperialists who imagine the world is our oyster.

  14. richard locicero Says:

    Reg, the answer is a coalition government of all the talents of which Mushariff will play no part. Over 70% of the nation says it wants him out. He can stay and rule by force and repression – which, of course will give the Jihadis succor. But the idea that a Mushariff govt. or Mushariff run election will solve anything is nonsnense.

    I really don’t think that US influence in Pakistan is nil. You might be right but I keep thinking that all that money ought to buy a little leverage. And, after all, we did ease out Marcos once upon a time and the standoff with Bush 41 and Itzhak Shamir brought down his government and led to Rabin and the last best hope for that problem. Of course assasination changed that and bids well to do the same in Pakistan.

    Would any of this work? Beats me. But the idea that our present policy will succeed is – shall we say – the triumph of hope over experience. You say Bush once proposed a “Humble” Foreign policy. All I can say is Condi and George are modest people and – as Churchill said once of Attlee – they have much to be modest about. As Joe Biden said we have a Mushariff Policy rather than a Pakistan policy and our reliance here on the Army Strong Man will probably come a cropper just our Iran policy foundered on the Shah or Vietnam on Diem and then the musical chairs of a bunch of scheming generals. Sound familiar?

    I’m under no illusions about any of this. Pakistan may be beyond saving but when you have the prospect of a failed state tottering on the abyss of religious extremism and possesing nuclear arms you better think long and hard about what you are doing.

  15. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Right now, if I had to bet I’d say RLC
    s right; a coalition gov’t is the best case scenario, for the moment anays. Nawaz Sharif continues to say he will boycott the elections. Musharraf is more disliked daily. And it was announced earlier today that Benazir’s 19-year-old Oxford-attending son Bilawal will be his mom’s successor as head of the PPP, since that’s what she said were her wishes.

    Yet this kid’s not even 20 and has barely lived in Pakistan.

    But what are the alternatives? With Benazir gone there’s no strong opposition leader. Sharif isn’t popular enough to carry the whole thing, I don’t think.

    The next days and weeks will be interesting.

  16. "reg" Says:

    My point is that the “best case scenario” isn’t going to happen in Pakistan right now – and it’s certainly not going to happen if the US does stuff like call for “regime change” in Pakistan in the wake of thie chaos. I have no love for Mushareff and would love to see something better, but I have no illusions that we can talk or threaten it into being. The worst thing I could imagine right now is for the US President to call for Mushareff to resign AND HIM RESIGNING ! Do we need to look even more like we’re trying to call the shots over these governments than it already does ? And the notion that a 19-year old Oxford student is now the head of the main opposition party is like some horrible joke. Frankly, I don’t think we had a “Mushareff” policy – we had a Mushareff-Bhutto policy. I don’t know what the hell Joe Biden is talking about other than trying to sound like he’s smarter than he could possibly be. He doesn’t have a “Pakistan policy” either. What we need is a US national security policy in relation to Pakistan. The notion of the US having a “Pakistan policy” – in the sense that we can play the angles and significantly impact Pakistani politics – is crazy. I want to hear – from Joe Biden or anybody else – what the hell our bottom lines are in relation to Pakistan. One damn thing I know is that Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t give a fuck who’s heading the Pakistani government or what they think if terrorists who – in fact – directly threaten us and have declared war on the US are using Pakistani territory to hide out and we know how to get them. That’s not a “Mushareff policy” or a “Pakistan policy.” That’s a US national security policy. And the voices of “experience” are too chickenshit to declare the same. I think they’re mostly idiots when they try to sound like they’re playing to “prime time” in these situations and put out the “correct” path for Pakistanis, because it’s hot air and – if one were in some negotiations with one or another faction to help assist them – totally counterproductive to broadcast this stuff.

  17. "reg" Says:

    It’s a far distant situation in Pakistan 2008 than the Marcos Phillipines, incidentally, for about a dozen reasons. The Phillipines was a country in which the US had long-term historic influence and we aren’t hated by the Phillipinos.

    Inicidentally, when I read Arianna Huffington talk about her long-time friendship with BBhutto going back to when they respectively headed the Oxford and Cambridge Unions, it became pretty obvious that the whole Bhutto thing was probably doomed from the start.

    The single worst statement in the wake of this tragedy was the first 8 words of Hillary Clinton’s: “I’ve known Benazir Bhutto for a dozen years…” Now that’s some real “prime time” framing. Very reassuring.

  18. "reg" Says:

    Incidentally, that thing about George Bush and “humility” was, of course, from 2000 not 2004 as I wrote.

  19. Woody Says:

    If only Hillary Clinton had shown such analytical and investigative abilities after the “suicide” of Vince Foster.

  20. WBC Says:

    As the commenter formerly known as Why Bother to Comment VI… Local reports from Karachi are that the tv news just keeps broadcasting photos and bios of Bhutto like she’s a saint, to drum up national passion, but didn’t do its job of urging moderation during the rioting, bringing on speakers of the different poltical and ethnic factions to do so, or even giving useful info on areas to avoid, etc. Leaving people to just try to make a run for it in the pre-dawn hours when the rabble were most likely to go home. Hence many people saying that the media as it exists in Pakistan is too immature to have control over people’s minds, and Musharref did the wise thing to shut down their unfettered access in November. Something else to think about when we in the west call for “free press” and all that.

    As for who’s doing the rioting: some reports are that it’s ethnic groups like Pathans and Goths, others say that this is just an attempt to divide the Pakistani people, that the rioters are members of BB’s own PPP, which is composed mostly of illiterate and poor people, the educated rejecting her history of corruption. (Allegedly brought upon her by her husband.) These PPP supporters blame Musharref for lack of security for her, even allegations of complicity. (Other conspiracy theories floating around: the Indian Intelligence Service allegedly has proof that someone from the ISI gave Mohammad Atta some thousand pounds…) Due to a biased and immature media and ethnic and socio-economic chasms, even the locals don’t know what’s really going on.

    Meanwhile apparently the student arm of the MSM party which is considered the political faction of the ISI/intelligence service (Musharref’s party, which is seen as an outgrowth of the Intelligence Service) has had people in the streets helping the stranded to get home and escape violence, helping find them shelter overnight, etc. Many say that these students are normally a “violent” or thuggish faction of the party, which the educated don’t historically support.

    But Sharif is widely seen as a nonsensical fool, demanding to replace Musharref but neither he nor anyone has the wherewithal to do anything but then preside over the country’s collapse. Everyone seems to agree Musharref must stay to put things in order. He’ll be harder to deal with now than before, though: he was looing forward to retiring as a Field Marshall before being pressed by the US to remove his uniform, and now it’s his military connections we need.

    As for other successors: BB is indeed blamed for getting rid of any charismatic PPP leaders who could have stepped in now, but there are some good ones to nurture. If the Bhutto dynasty must continue, people feel that her son must rule in coalition with some experienced members of PPP and other parties. So a coalition behind his figurehead — 19-yr-old kid or not, it’s accepted the people need some transition.

    Bhotto’s niece Fatima, whom Celeste brought to this blog, has been mentioned — but as part of some opposition coalition, her anti-American blame game too divisive now. (Everyone blames America for building up the Mujahadeen then leaving them to reign in terror as the Taliban/Al Qaeda, but it’s understood that the US and Musharref pulling out now would be catastrophic.)

  21. richard locicero Says:

    You know Woody isn’t even funny anymore. Since your handpicked henchmen couldn’t pin Foster’s death on Hillary and Bill why do you continue? Hoping to frame another inncocent like the former Governor of Alabama?

    Or are you just jealous that Bill got laid and you probably couldn’t score with a platinum card glued to your forhead in a visit to Heidi Fliess’s?

  22. richard locicero Says:

    I know we’re not supposed to be vituperative here but I give noticew that if Woody continues to provide puerile “Jokes” that only show his immaturity the gloves are off! I’m sick of dealing with such rants as serious discussion.

  23. WBC Says:

    Just a couple of corrections re: wrong acronyms, which are so prevalent and so confusing in Pakistani politics: MQM is NOT Musharref’s party, but it is a strong support of him and his rule. It was founded in 78 at Uni of Karachi by Altaf Hussain (still its leader, albeit in exile since 92 accused of kidnapping and torturing an Army Major) as voice of Mujahir Urdu students, that is, descendents of those who migrated TO Pakistan during 47 Partition “in the name of Islam.” These are the people who lose some 2 million family in the massacres as they tried to reach newly-formed Pakistan by train.

    MQM/Hussain became allied with Musharref and his party (the ruling PML-Q, as opposed to PML-N headed by Nawaz Sharif, and in fact formed in opposition to Sharif’s monopoly in 01) after Musharref’s U-turn on Afghan policy post 9/11. MQM is blamed for the riots last year (the infamous “May 12th) when anti-Musharref Judge Chaudry Iftikhar made his “Speech Tour Across Pakistan” to denounce Musharref and the government, and MQM staged pro-Musharref rallies to counter Chaudry which went seriously awry and resulted in many deaths, injuries and rioting. MQM has been trying to reach out to the disenfranchised across Pakistan but its strength is still in the Urdu Sindh province, whose capital is Karachi.

    So: if you want to find a party whose hands aren’t tainted by terrorism, blood and ethnic violence in Pakistan, you’ll be hard-pressed to do so, just looking at this unholy alliance which is now propping up Pakistan. But as noted above, Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party was so monopolistic that it spawned the current opposition ruling branch of PML and no way they want him back, nor do the people.

    BB’s PPP party will have as its titular head her son and husband Zadari (they will now be known as the Bhutto- Zadaris), but Party stalwart Makhdoom Amin Fahim will be advising them. In this unstable time, even those who know that Zadari is a crook and Musharref and his MQM associations are dubious, accept that this is the best they’ve got to work with. Elections will likely be postponed though, especially now that this PPP triumverate is in place and the risk of instability from Sharif and other rival parties has been marginalized.

  24. "reg" Says:

    Thanks rlc ! I hate always being the bad guy, but I don’t get the point of crap like that in the context of this – or any – discussion. Maybe I’m too thinskinned, but it amazes me that someone on the right can, on the one hand criticize “the left” for “Bush hatred”, making intemperate cmments, etc. etc and then keep dragging crackpot stuff like that up. I am no fan of Hillary Clinton, but I can find plenty to criticize without crawling into the slime pit. Childish doesn’t even begin to describe it.

  25. Woody Says:

    Yeah, reg, you’re calling everyone profane names is the height of your maturity. Vince Foster and others conncected with the Clinton’s had deaths that were a little less than normal.
    LINK: The Death of Vincent Foster: Evidence Of A Cover-up

    The Clinton’s really have bad luck with their friends.

    Okay, back to your brilliant comments.

  26. Woody Says:

    Insert “your” for “you’re” above and correct the typo for “connected.” There are no other mistakes in the comment.

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